A Gift To My Faithful 6 of 6

Happy Holidays everyone! I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more. I never became a professional writer for the money. It’s damn near impossible to make a living in the internet age as a novelist or journalist. I do it because I love it. Plain and simple. That being said, I’m going to give you all six stories between now and Christmas absolutely free. All of these appear in my short story collection “Six From Five Seven”. You can purchase a copy if you feel froggy, but I refuse to beg. I’m not starting up a clothing line either. No rules, just write. Enjoy!

HELL PASO

(Originally appeared in the 2020 Splatterpunk Anthology of the Year winning And Hell Followed from Death’s Head Press.)

Mankind knew nothing. For everyone else on the planet Earth, it was a day like any other. Morning commuters clogged the interstate highway system with hopes of landing that life altering promotion and mothers offered sustenance to innocent babies in tidy, suburban kitchens. However, for two unfortunate Army soldiers in the epicenter of the apocalypse, it was the beginning of the end.

“Holy shit!” screamed Sergeant Cross as his feet hurried through the blood-soaked desert sand “You just shot Jesus in the face!”

“How was I supposed to know Jesus was brown?” replied Private Daniels with labored breath, dodging mortar explosions “Blame Caucasian society for that shit, not me! Sunday school told me he looked like bearded Ewan McGregor, not the reanimated corpse of Osama Bin Laden floating through the fucking sky! I thought he was coming to get us, and I panicked!”

The two soldiers ducked through the broken glass doorway of an abandoned base commissary as another explosion rocked the surroundings. So far, it was the safest place that came to mind. Peeking up through a dust-stained window, Sergeant Cross watched the continued carnage which took place on the streets of Fort Bliss.

“This is bad, Daniels! This is very fucking bad!”

A last-minute decision to join the Army National Guard had saved Sergeant Tom Cross from a lifetime of mediocrity. He’d grown tired of the nine to five grinds at the local slave pool of his tiny hometown and wanted more. He craved excitement. Before anyone could notice his absence, Tom filed for divorce, signed the paperwork, and dedicated one weekend a month to military service. Two months’ worth of basic training nightmares was a small drop in the bucket when compared to the failed suicide attempts he’d be destined to endure on a nightly basis if his current life path had continued. As of this moment, a strong strap over the shower curtain rod felt like the better option.

“Here, eat this!” Cross ordered Daniels, throwing a package of fruit pies his direction “We don’t know when we’ll get another chance, and we need to build our strength.”

“Here, eat this, Sarg!” Daniels motioned toward his own crotch with his free hand “I think the chain of command has flown out the window, Tom! Fuck your orders, fuck your fruit pies, and fuck the Army!”

Private Dan Daniels was born a child of privilege. Raised on a massive Texas ranch overshadowed by the family mansion, he’d barely lifted a finger in his life unless it involved an insult to his enemies or a trip into the head cheerleader’s panties. His purpose of military service was to offer a black eye to his father who’d spent the duration of his early twenties as a dedicated Marine. They’d turned Dan’s bedroom into his mother’s craft space upon departure. Cut off from the family fortune, he was on his own. Another screeching demon buzzed by the building’s window feasting on a fallen comrade’s remains. He wished he’d stayed home.

“How much ammo do you have left, Daniels?”

“Enough to get back to the motor pool and boost a Hummer!” Daniels exclaimed “I can pick up more along the way from the dead guys. I’ve played video games. You can be a hero if you want or stay in this store and eat candy until you get fat. I don’t care. I’m getting the hell out of here!”

The book of Revelations had come true during their summer maneuvers at Operation Roving Sands. Just across the border in Juarez, a portal of sorts poured nightmares into Mexico at an alarming rate. Within hours, the residents of the Mexican city littered the ground in pieces and the buildings burned with inextinguishable fire. It didn’t take long for the apocalypse to cross into Texas.

Daniels pulled and checked his weapon’s magazine for an ammunition count.

“Did you ever think this is why the President was so hell-bent on building that wall? Like, maybe he knew this shit was coming and he wanted to keep it contained in Mexico. They say that Bush knew all about 9/11…”

“That is officially the dumbest load of crap I’ve ever heard!” Sergeant Cross interrupted “If the President knew impending doom was coming, he would’ve been banging three Playboy Bunnies at once live on CNN. Do you not know who our President is? He’d be grabbing them all by the…”

Sergeant Cross fell quiet as a massive shadow eclipsed the store window. Motioning to Daniels, the two of them switched their weapons from the safety setting into burst. Daniels nodded in agreement as the two of them silently slid behind the nearest shelf for cover.

The blood-covered demonic entity peered around the corner of the building and into the glass. Steams of crimson dripped from its massive teeth as his tongue retrieved the sustenance into his own mouth. It obviously enjoyed the taste and appeared to be in search of more. A blast of burning breath fogged the already grimed window. Disappointed, he leapt into the sky with a single flap of his wings. The two soldiers exhaled in relief.

“I don’t think we’re going to make it to the motor pool, Daniels,” Cross whispered “Those bastards are ten feet tall and can fly. They’ll see us long before we’ll see them. We need a backup plan…”

“A backup plan?” Daniels laughed “Who said I was taking you with me? To me, this appears to be an ‘every man for himself’ situation and, as far as I’m concerned, every man can blow me! We’re easier to see if we’re in a group. I swear I’ll fucking shoot you if you try to follow…”

With that, Sergeant Cross leapt to his feet in challenge, aiming his rifle directly at Daniel’s head. Dan followed suit only to be slapped across the face by the butt stock of the Sergeant’s weapon. Spitting blood, he landed hard somewhere in the vicinity of the bread rack and tuna fish cans. He immediately threw one into the face of his oppressor. It missed by inches and landed with a metallic thump in the next aisle.

“Fuck you, Tom!” Daniels shouted “Who the fuck do you think you are? So help me God I’ll…”

You’ll what, Private? You’ll throw food at me again? Is that how we’re going to beat the devil? Challenge him to a food fight? Satan is NOT John Belushi, Dan!”

The men leapt to the floor in terror once again as two more demons landed in the street beyond. Whatever remained of their argument was insignificant next to survival instincts. Sniffing the air frantically in the direction of the commissary, they exhibited animal-like behavior as if searching for prey. One looked at the other as an expression of distraught appeared across his red tinted face followed by a howl interpreted as disappointment. Together, they flew into the direction of the portal allowing what remained of the day’s sunlight into the building.

“Goddammit!” Daniels cried “It’s almost like those things have it in for us! Help me loot this place for a Bible!”

Sergeant Cross looked downward at the puddle of Daniels’ blood as it gleamed rays of daylight near his feet. A thought echoed in his mind which caused a possible escape scenario to form if needed. The demons were tracking the humans by the scent of spilled blood and, since neither of them were wounded during the initial battle, it allowed their stealthily existence to continue. If push came to shove and all hope was surely lost, he’d bleed Daniels as a means of escape. Unfortunately, Daniels was probably pondering this same gruesome thought. He had to be on guard for anything from this point forward.

“What do you need a Bible for? Do you plan on throwing that at them, too?”

“Ha!” Daniels yelled sarcastically “No, funny fucker, I need to see what happens next! If this is the Book of Revelations come to life, I need to know the next step in the plan.”

Sergeant Cross shook his head in disgust. Placing his hand softly on Daniel’s shoulder, he pulled the man in close as though a secret confession was in order. Tom moved his head slowly upward from the ground to meet Dan eye to eye. How pleasant would it be to watch this man’s life drain from those same eyes? How many more men would he be willing to kill to secure his own survival? Tom’s mouth began to salivate at the thought, but he sucked it back into his throat as he began a well-deserved explanation to the idiot at arm’s length.

“First of all, we don’t have time to read. Second? These Army base commissaries are all staffed by Korean immigrants, and I doubt very seriously any of them left a Bible just laying around. They’re all into Buddhas’ and shit. Third? Humanity went off track from the Book of Revelations when you shot Jesus Christ in the fucking face!”

Cross could almost hear the ping of realization echo in Dan’s brain from the sudden realization. A sly smile slowly spread from ear to ear on the Private’s face as a chuckle escaped. He soon doubled over in laughter.

“So, what you’re saying is, Satan isn’t the guy bringing on the apocalypse? I did it? I swear, man. You and my father. Ironic. He used to say some shit like that all the time when I wouldn’t mow the yard or got an F on my report card. He always said I’d be the cause for the end of the world…”

“You are THE cause!” Cross put an end to the reflection “The horns blew, and Jesus came floating out of the damned sky like Magneto to save us all! How did you repay him? You shot him in the fucking face, and he hit the ground! He hit that shit harder than Paul Walker driving through a Christmas tree farm! So, yes! Congratulations! You’re the Anti-Christ and your father was a psychic!”

“Semantics,” Daniels expressed convincingly “We were all shooting at everything when the shit went down. How do you know I was the one who tagged him? It could’ve been anyone! Hell, it could’ve been you!”

“No,” laughed Cross “It was you! You said, and I quote, “Hey, Sarg, watch me tag this tan hippie with the robe in the fucking face!” You even got my attention before you did it like I was going to pat you on the back!”

Daniels broke into crazed laughter at the end of the story’s recap. Hunched over, he appeared in pain caused by the hilarity of it all. He rested his weapon across his lap as he sat atop the polished tile floor, fluffing a couple of loaves of bread into a makeshift pillow.

“It was a bad ass shot, though,” Daniels expressed, closing his eyes in rest.

Sergeant Tom Cross occupied the floor next to his temporary roommate and followed the example. There wasn’t much else either of them could do at that moment other than run outdoors with guns blazing into the setting sun toward inevitable doom. Death was coming for certain. At least they wouldn’t be sleepy when it finally arrived.

“Maybe you’ve got the right idea, Dan. Maybe if we’re not bleeding, yelling, and throwing tuna cans at each other, they’ll move away from here and give us a chance to escape. Maybe I’ll write my ex-wife’s address on the front window of this place in shoe polish, so they’ll know where to go next. With any luck, she’ll start to nag at them for walking on the lawn and they’ll retreat into that portal. Problem solved.”

“Nah,” Daniel’s assured “According to your lovely description of the lady, she’ll probably let them all take turns on her, and they’ll slowly die of gonorrhea. Apocalypse avoided, porn style.

The two men slept as the continued screams of the dying offered a sickening lullaby of peace.

***

Cross and Daniels crept from shadow to shadow under the cover of desert darkness. The sky above, usually dotted by the pin hole glimmers of a million celestial stars, now glowed with the green hue of Hell’s portal. It was temporarily interrupted from time to time with an explosive blast of orange as the fires raged in both Juarez and El Paso. They couldn’t help but wonder if the remainder of the world boasted similar destruction.

Upon waking, they monitored the streets of Fort Bliss for any signs of demonic presence. Both fortunate and unfortunate simultaneously, the screams of their fellow soldiers were no more. It either meant Sergeant Cross and Private Daniels were the last two men alive from the assault earlier in the day or the remaining soldiers discovered a way to victory. Private Daniels defeated the latter thought as he stepped into yet another pile of human remains.

“This is some straight up disgusting bullshit!” he exclaimed aloud, shaking his right foot to remove the guts from his boot “I can’t tell if it’s G.I. Joe or G.I. Jane but I’m sick of slipping in it!”

“Stop being so inconsiderate!” Cross corrected his fellow soldier “Whoever it is, they weren’t granted the lucky break we got. He or she signed the same papers and wore the same uniform as you. Show some respect!”

Sergeant Cross had grown tired of Dan’s constant whining three blocks ago. It appeared as though the subordinate insisted on the two of them being discovered by a roving patrol of demons. In the grand scheme of things, would that have been so bad? Being chewed to bits and swallowed by the spawn of the underworld seemed joyful compared to the Private’s babyish tantrums. Cross would’ve shot him between the eyes already if he had reassurance it wouldn’t bring Hell upon him. No pun intended.

“Nope,” Daniels continued “That is definitely a detached vagina. Hey, Tom! Have you ever seen what one of these things looks like from the inside? I can’t believe I used to stick my face in that! Check it out! It’s still moving! It’s making little kissy noises and everything! It’s enough to make me want to…”

“Oh my God, will you shut the fuck up!” Cross screamed behind his teeth for the sake of silence “Of all the people I could get stuck with while enduring the end of days, I got stuck with Private Dan Daniels! The ‘lips’ of the apocalypse!”

Daniels couldn’t help it. In his defense, he was attempting to make the best of a bad situation. This was indeed the most horrible situation he’d endured and even his own screwed up imagination paled in comparison to current reality. Cross didn’t seem to appreciate his efforts to enlighten their hopeless mood and soon, he’d have to die for it. Dan didn’t plan on spending his last moments alive being shushed and corrected. He had a mother for that. Somewhere. He hoped.

“Look!” Daniels laughed “That one still has a tampon in it! Whoever that chick was, she had the worst bad flow day of her life! Kind of looks like a puppet smoking a cigar…”

Sergeant Cross dropped to one knee with his weapon at the ready. His closed fist shot into the air as a signal to end Dan’s grotesque trip down discovery lane. The Private obeyed, joining the lead man behind a demolished LMTV transport vehicle. There were footsteps approaching their direction. Lots of them.

From the temporary safety of the vehicle’s cover, both men witnessed an organized platoon of demonic soldiers marching in time to a single evil entity in the lead. Smaller than the winged counterparts from before, these beings were less fairy tale-esque in appearance. Almost humanoid except for their frightening faces, they all stepped in cadence to a single, larger demon who acted as their superior. He called out rhymes in a completely unknown language. They had swords at the ready.

“I think we can take them, Tom”

“Don’t be ridiculous, man” Tom responded sensibly “There’s like twenty of them and two of us! We will die!”

“Oh, ye of little faith, Sergeant Cross,” Dan spoke calmly “Those bastards brought knives to a gun fight and have no idea we’re even here. We can jump out, shoot them up, and get on with our lives…”

“What lives, you dumb bastard?” Cross explained with closed eyes “Our minutes are numbered as it is! I’m not trying to end it prematurely by mimicking a stupid, rich boy fantasy! We sit here, we let them pass, and we keep heading to the motor pool. It’s our best chance!”

Sergeant Cross suddenly realized he was talking to a ghost when his eyes finally opened. During the instruction, Daniels obviously snuck off into the direction of Hell’s troops for a suicidal delusion of grandeur. He tightened the chin strap of his Kevlar helmet for the coming battle. The only decision left to make was whether he planned on allowing the buffoon to storm the horde without assistance. Daniels hurried that decision for him half a second later.

“Hey, boys! You soldiers looking for a good time?”

The demons’ heads shot to attention at the sound of the human voice and growled in unison. Daniels stood his ground fearlessly as the monster in command stared down his prey with ferocious determination. It gave one last grunt to his troops as he pointed in the direction of the visible human soldier, causing the bunch to sprint his direction with weapons raised. Daniels stood his ground with foolish bravery.

Cross couldn’t believe the scene playing out before his eyes. Jumping to his feet and bracing his weapon atop the bumper of the LMTV, he aimed for the head of the demon in charge who refused to move with the advance of his troops. Tom glanced away from his gunsight momentarily to witness Dan’s last stand only to have his vision blinded by the sudden flash of fire. The demonic troops collapsed into piles of unidentified flesh as the claymore’s pellets shredded their existence. Daniels was obviously not as foolish as previously conceived. Sergeant Cross smiled as he squeezed the trigger of his second hand M16-A2 rifle, dropping the commanding officer to his knees with a single shot. Silence returned to the streets as Daniels rejoined his superior in the shadows of safety.

“You son of a bitch!” Tom hollered “Where in the hell did you get a claymore mine and how did you set it up so damn fast?”

“Practice, baby. Practice. I’ve had that thing for days now stuffed into my ruck sack long before all this crazy shit started! I was going to sneak it home when maneuvers were over, so I could plant it in some poor asshole’s driveway for fun.”

As crazy as it seemed, Sergeant Cross suddenly developed a new-found love for the idiot gloating in his own self-proclaimed genius. Whether or not it was intelligence cleverly disguised as lunacy, he believed a chance existed they’d both live to see the sun rise from the east once more. Still, Cross would have to bleed Daniels at some point to throw off the hounds but, as of this very moment, he bathed the man in envy. Trial by repetition guaranteed his feelings would be short lived.

“C’mon,” Cross added “I’m sure some of them heard that. We have to get off the streets and into some cover before they show…a Hummer!”

Tom’s orders ceased as he discovered the military vehicle only two blocks away from their current position. It appeared to be intact from where he stood except for a fresh coat of blood paint provided by some poor souls formerly of Fort Bliss. That was good enough for him.

Slowly, the two soldiers crept from cover to cover once more with a goal in sight but were soon forced to halt by a heavy, recognized flap of wings. Cross and Daniels found their hiding spot just as the demon descended from the tarnished sky, landing atop the prized transportation. The beast glared angrily in all directions in hope of finding the cause of his comrades’ demise. Frozen in fear, the two men dared not to move a muscle.

“Dammit, man,” Cross whispered “Check out the claws on thing! We wouldn’t stand a chance if he got his hands on us.”

“Yeah, he’s definitely a ‘He’,” Daniels followed up the comment “Look at that cock swinging between his legs! He’s knocking knee to knee with every turn! Lucky bastard…”

Tom slapped his face into his palm yet again.

“That’s the third time you’ve said something that involves dicks since this chaos started! Are you obsessed?”

“I wasn’t aware you were keeping score, Tom,” Daniels mocked “Are you saying I should bump up the dick count? Would it make you happier if I threw a few more dicks your direction?”

Cross just shook his head hopelessly as he observed his demonic enemy from the safety of the shadows. Sniffing the air profusely, the creature began to jump up and down upon the vehicle’s roof causing it to cave in more with each landing. It only took a few more bounces before the front driver’s tire popped from the added weight and impact. Obviously satisfied from his actions, the demon gave a pleasured smile and ascended toward the heavens once more.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Daniels exclaimed aloud “Now, why would he go and do such a thing?”

“Isn’t it obvious, Dan? Cross realized “They know we’re out here. They might not know exactly where we are, but they know we’re not in a pile of dead soldiers on the battlefield.”

“And just how in the hell do they know that, smarty pants?”

“Simple,” Cross explained “Satan was once an angel and probably best friends with the old man in the sky. You shot God’s son right between the eyes and that’s drawn some unwanted attention. I don’t think they’re looking for ‘us’ at all. I think they’re looking for ‘you’.”

Daniels swallowed hard upon hearing the Sergeant’s words. What were the chances he was truly marked in some way like Cross said? It didn’t matter. All he knew for certain was that it was time he got his skinny ass to the motor pool, commandeered a working vehicle, and got the fuck out of ‘Hell Paso’ while a chance for survival still existed. With or without Tom Cross, the time for ducking in shadows and hiding was over. No guts, no glory. It was high time Daniels let the Sergeant know who was really in charge of this situation.

“Ok, Tom. Here’s the deal. I think I’ve had just about enough of you talking shit to me and acting like I still have to follow every single one of your damned orders as though the military still exists. It does, I mean. Sort of. It still exists in a festering pile of blood and guts on the far side of Fort Bliss where we started running for our lives, and something tells me that none of those soldiers have much to say regarding their current situations. They’re dead and I’m not so I must be doing something right.

The Sergeant looked at Daniels with stone-cold eyes but allowed him to finish his rant.

“Go on,” Sergeant Cross twirled his hands in a circular motion “Get it all out of your system.”

“Thank you, I will,” Daniels accepted the offer “Now, you’ve treated me like some kind of worthless turd since the day I was assigned to this unit. Yes, I’m aware of the fact I’m just a Private First Class when compared to the rank of Sergeant but I’m a human being, too! Right now, we humans must stick together with no regard for military rank or social status. You need to recognize the fact I saved our asses back there when that horde from Hell showed up with the swords. I took care of that shit. That was me.”

There was an extended pause in Daniels’ story as though he waited for some type of praise. Cross cocked his head to one side out of curiosity into Dan’s face, but no more words spewed from his twisted mouth. It was as though Daniels had ranted himself speechless. Obviously, for every good lecture given, a retort existed on the lips of the opposing side. Sergeant Tom Cross was indeed the opposition.

“Are you finished?” he began “Do you have anything else to say for yourself? No? Good, then that means it’s my turn!”

Sergeant Cross began to pace back and forth in visible strides of anger just as the Army had taught him. To make things worse, Daniels still stared blankly into Tom’s direction but didn’t thwart his planned tirade not one bit. Cross was finally going to unleash his fury upon the subordinate in a way he should’ve done the minute dire straits were realized back in the commissary. If he had to punch the bastard directly in the face to make his point, so be it.

“What do you want, Daniels? Do you want a pat on the back for using the claymore mine in which you originally intended to use harmfully toward another innocent human being? Do you want me to give you a high-five for going against my orders to stay hidden and for every other order of mine you’ve ignored since the day we met? Do you want me to hug you from behind and give you the reach around for every time you’ve tried to turn the horrendous situation at hand into a moving comedy show? No, sir. All you’re going to receive from me is the punch in the face you’ve deserved since the beginning of this freak show!”

Private Dan Daniels was frozen in fear as the Sergeant reared back his fist to strike. A puff of steaming breath upon his neck caused Cross to realize all too late that the impending assault wasn’t the origin of Daniels’ petrification. With a minimal effort twist and tug of the demon’s clawed hand, the superior non-commissioned officer’s head came free from his shoulders leaving a crumpled mess of flesh and blood at the feet of the frightened Private. Daniels responded with the most basic of human characteristics to the carnage which played out before his eyes. He ran.

Dodging the debris of war-torn vehicles and a few more collections of shredded, mangled bodies, Daniels sprinted for the motor pool at the far end of the Fort Bliss main drag screaming every step of the way. He peeked over his shoulder just long enough to realize the winged demon was keeping up to his pace by casually walking. Hopeless, Daniels halted and spun, releasing a fury of bullets into the body of the Hell spawn with no negative effect to its wellbeing. The demon expressed a face-to-face howl of terror into the ears of its victim as Dan realized escape was no longer an option. He made sure to faint long before the creature’s teeth could have their way.

***

Private First-Class Dan Daniels slowly opened his eyes to what he imagined to be the luminescent glow of the afterlife. Afraid to move out of creating unwanted attention, he lay flat upon a foreign, hardened surface which vibrated with each pulse of his still beating heart. Had he found some way to survive the encounter and escape his pursuer from the streets of the military installation or was this indeed the gates of Heaven as suggested by the Sunday School classes he rarely attended during his youth? Dan’s vision cleared with each spared breath, and he soon realized his surroundings to be all too familiar.

The vibrations at his back were nothing more than the slamming of a basketball against the highly polished floor of the Fort Bliss gymnasium. Upon further inspection, Heaven’s radiant glow was only that of the suspended lighting which dangled from the roof’s support rafters. Confusion began to set in even more than all he’d experienced during the previous day’s events as he came to his feet without pain or realized loss of limb. He was alive.

“Catch!” came the gravelly voice from the far end of the gym but his reaction time was far too slow to prevent a face full of rubber.

Daniels fell to the floor again with a thud that seemed to echo forever between the concrete walls of the structure. A ringing between his ears caused by the impact permeated his senses as he faded in and out of consciousness. Bring his tired body to its knees, he crawled on all fours from the current location to prevent anymore projectile interception. The stomp of feet approached his direction which made him shrivel into the fetal position once more.

“Whoa, hey, man. Sorry about that! I saw you waking up, so I thought I’d see if you wanted to play a round of basketball before I got on with this crazy plan of world domination. You do play hoops, right?”

Clearing the stinging sweat from his eyes, Daniels glanced around the gymnasium to see mob upon mob of demons gathering in the bleachers on either side of his position. Bloody footprints collected while tromping through fields of fellow fallen soldiers stained the once clean floor of the out of bounds areas from their clawed feet. They sat in waiting of their master’s next order with wings folded. Daniels dared not to say a word.

“Excuse the mess,” the chosen officiator announced “They may be nasty but they’re my kind of nasty. All I’ve got to do is point my finger in any direction and they lay waste to everything. It’s almost like an army of trained dogs with big ass teeth and wings. Pretty cool, really! It’s good to be the master sometimes.”

Daniels averted his eyes from the direction of the demonic leader which he only imaged to be Satan himself. Fearful for what remained of his miserable life, he fell to his knees one last time to grovel at the feet of the being now in control of his destiny. He felt the being walk behind him in what could only be interpreted as the coming of the end.

“Are you going to kill me now?” Dan cried as the entity paused his advance.

“Kill you?” the unseen voice boomed “Are you crazy? No way, my dear boy, I’m not going to kill you! You actually saved me from a shit storm of trouble earlier today! Jesus was about to come down here and kick my ass until you intervened with what I have to say was a clean, well-placed shot atop his unibrow! No sir! I’m not going to even think about killing you! You’ve managed to make this all possible. It’s a dream come true as far as I’m concerned!”

The being began to circle Daniels as he continued his speech. His knees started to ache from all the recent running over previous hours as they popped uncomfortably against the hardwood floor. He closed his eyes tightly once again as he awaited his unsure fate.

“Do you know how hard it is to be the father of all things evil? I’ve got enough stuff to deal with on a daily basis without old JC coming down here to scold me for destroying his dad’s creation. Have you ever done that before? Were you ever over at a friend’s house when you were a kid and accidentally broke one of his Dad’s Jimi Hendrix records or something? It’s not the most fun feeling, man. I mean, you know the other kid’s Pops isn’t going to wail on you personally, but you feel bad knowing your friend will get his ass kicked later after you go home. It’s pretty much the same shit. God is probably kicking that ass right now. I’d love to be a little demonic fly on the wall up there.”

Daniels was finding it harder and harder to keep a straight face during the satanic monologue from the being’s rant. He never would’ve guessed the devil had such a sense of humor. Twisted much like his own, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad existence living out the remainder of his days as the right-hand buddy of Beelzebub. Dan attempted to test the waters for a sign of tolerance.

“So, let me get this straight,” his voice crawled with uncertainty “I shot Jesus Christ for you and you’re going to let me live even though you’ve killed everyone else on Earth?”

The head demon paused in his pacing as he ran very human like fingers across Dan’s military style flat top haircut. Thumping the top of the soldier’s head in order from thumb to pinky, Dan could sense the being was in deep thought regarding how to answer the blunt question. He removed his hand and continued to encircle his prisoner until a band of winged demons to his right began to chuckle furiously.

“Well, that all depends on what you consider your definition of the word ‘living’ to be,” the creature teased, raising his hand to shush his amused crowd of servants “I’m probably going to make you do some fucked up shit all the time like you’re some kind of abused pet, but I’m definitely going to let you live. You’re an endangered species now, after all! Kind of like a collector’s item of sorts. I’m the proud owner of the only human in the world. It makes me feel all special!”

Dan’s curiosity begged the question.

“Like what kind of fucked up shit are we talking about?”

“Oh, I see!” the master responded to the inquiry “You’re the kind of guy that likes to know the end of the book before he even gets a chance to read the first chapter! You probably went to see The Empire Strikes Back a second time just to blurt out who Darth Vader was to the unsuspecting theater patrons! Don’t you dare speak out of turn again, human!”

Enraged by the soldier’s premature inquiry, the being quickened his pace with every word. Dan’s eardrums were pierced by horrible scenarios flying from the master’s tongue which could only be interpreted by tone. He spoke them with blurred velocity and they seemed to worsen with every new verbal assault. The demons in attendance who understood his language erupted into fits of laughter and, this time, there was no stopping them. Daniels couldn’t help but think his life span as Satan’s pet would be short lived after all. The speech slowed once more into recognizable English.

“…and finally, I’m going to make my flying monkeys go scoop up your dead friend from the alley outside, so I can sit and watch you eat him one piece at a time. You better not even think of stopping until that bastard is all gone and don’t think for a second you’ll be privy to any cutting utensils. No, you’re going to have to start with the skinny parts and work your way up. I’m thinking his extremities! Maybe one in particular…”

Dan’s mind faded away into happier places and far from the nightmarish scenarios offered by the devil’s endless imagination. Thoughts of whether or not he should run headfirst into a bleacher full of demons to ensure his death rather than feast upon the severed cock of Sergeant Cross ran marathons in his mind. Coming to his feet, his eyes opened to the shocking sight and grinning face of his captor for the first time since waking below the lights of the gymnasium. Ultimate fear gripped him as the being’s name rolled from his panic-stricken tongue. It was a name which symbolized certainty to the before mentioned fates offered from the continued rant and little chance of escape.

“John Belushi?”

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